It had been six days, three hours and twenty-two minutes since Nanami-sama had left.
It felt like forever to Mitsuru, and he wondered if that, too, was because he was still a child, everything around him feeling bigger than it actually was. Adults told him that when he got older, the world would seem smaller and less frightening to him, and that time would start to pass faster. It made sense, though it was hard to imagine.
Sitting alone on a stiff wooden bench waiting to be summoned, he stared down at his feet, clasping his hands together and tucking them between his thighs. Bit his bottom lip. He didn’t think he deserved to be here, he’d never misbehaved in class until now. Never. Once, just once, he had snapped at another boy, threatened him in class over one harmless little joke and the next moment had found himself outside the principal’s office. It felt like other kids were always getting away with worse. It wasn’t fair.
He smiled the tiniest bit. His teacher had blonde hair and wore a nice-smelling perfume. She was pretty even when she was scolding him. His smile grew just a bit more. Secretly thinking about a teacher like that felt mischievous.
Then he remembered her finger jabbing dangerously close to his face with its long, sharp-looking nail painted the exact same shade of red his mother wore, and his sheepish grin vanished.
Six days, three hours, and twenty-five minutes.
Entranced as he was by the criss-crossing path his shoelaces made, he didn’t notice the shadow that had slipped over them until a voice, masculine and calm, said his name.
His head shot up, and he stuttered out something that may have been a “Uh, uh…Yes, sir!”
The man was smiling, his pleasant green eyes radiating a gentle amusement. He looked to be younger than thirty, and did not look as rigid or as formal as an Ohtori faculty member should. Mitsuru relaxed.
“My name is Akio Ohtori, the acting Chairman here. I was told there was incident earlier today in your homeroom, class 2-A. Is that correct?”
Oh, no. Oh, no no no, this was bad. He could not believe he was in enough trouble to have it reach all the way up to the Chairman. A quiet “Yes,” was all he could manage.
The Chairman’s smile broadened, casually slipping one hand into his pocket as he motioned for Mitsuru to stand with the other. He did not appear mad. “Alright, then,” he said, laughing kindly, “How about we go and talk about it someplace a little less stuffy?”
“Um, yes sir.” Mitsuru said, not sure what to think as the Chairman placed one heavy hand on his shoulder. The gesture was a little awkward, but nonetheless the boy felt his fear abate gradually beneath the friendly contact a little with each step as he was led down the hall.
Six days, three hours and twenty-seven minutes.
The Chairman did not really have an office, as he explained to Mitsuru going up the tiny elevator, he wasn’t too fond of desk work, and felt that the entire feeling of one was too impersonal. They would be using his observatory, instead, which excited Mitsuru- he had never been inside a real, live observatory before.
He had told Mitsuru to call him by his first name, Akio, stating that he wanted to form stronger, more personal bonds with his students, none of this big bad teacher and obedient little pupil nonsense. Labels like that only distanced the faculty from truly understanding, and thus helping the student body, he said.
Mitsuru felt his tension ease away with each word Akio spoke, although he still did not understand why the Chairman cared so much about an elementary school student in trouble for a minor infraction, especially since his family was neither rich nor prestigious. It seemed like a waste of time for someone as important and busy as him. It should have made Mitsuru feel wary, but instead he felt something similar to that sneaky kind of happiness he had felt earlier when thinking of his teacher; proud and excited to be receiving special treatment.
Whatever Mitsuru had expected to see when he was told they were going to an observatory -white linoleum floors, towers of silver machinery and flashing colorful lights of super-computers- was anything but what he found when the elevator doors finally dinged and slid open; a room, large and open, with rich, luxurious red carpet and tall glass windows that let in long columns of afternoon sunlight while displaying a breath-taking panoramic view of the grounds. It felt like he had stepped into a mansion, or a castle.
Akio directed him to a pair of white couches that sat facing one another in the center of the observatory before disappearing into another room. Still a little unsure of what to do, he sat down on the very edge of one, knees together with his hands folded once more into his lap.
It was very comfortable, and the air smelled sweetly of honey and flowers. A matching and delicate-looking coffee table divided the pair of couches, and he let his eyes trace over the intricate rose and vine pattern that trailed along its edge.
Six days, three hours, and thirty-six minutes.
A silver tray and tea set in hand, Akio returned, sitting across from Mitsuru and crossing his legs. The boy could not help but notice how long they were. Long and trim.
“They look delicious, don’t they?”
Mitsuru’s eyes snapped up to meet Akio’s, blood rushing to his cheeks, embarrassed at being caught and confused by his words. “What?”
The Chairman appeared not to have heard him, gesturing towards a small plate of pink and purple iced cookies sitting on the tea tray with an open palm. “My sister made them earlier this morning. Please, help yourself. She’s quite the talented little baker.”
“Thank you, Akio-san.” He said politely, still blushing as he reached forward. Why had he even been staring in the first place? His hand brushed against the older man’s and he snapped it back the tiniest bit. The Chairman didn’t notice, thankfully, and popped a small cookie iced to resemble a pink rose into his mouth.
Mitsuru sipped the tea he was poured graciously, unfamiliar with the flavor -something sweet and fragrant like an edible perfume, almost bitter, almost terrible, unlike anything his mother had ever brewed him when he had trouble sleeping before bedtime- head still slightly lowered, watching with an equally unfamiliar type of fascination as the tips of the Chairman’s index and middle finger lingered in his mouth, barely breaching his lips, savoring the sweetness. Kept on watching as his tongue, dusty red as wine, darted out to lick imaginary crumbs off his thumb, making wet, nearly inaudible sounds of satisfaction.
A person without goals is too easily distracted. He knows this. Nothing about this felt right.
There are rose petals floating in his tea. Something about come, you should see this, and would you like to take a look? And the dark thing in front of him is impressive and mysterious, like some cross between a gigantic mace and barbell, resting diagonally on the carpet in front of the windows. It is Akio’s projector, apparently, and it has been there all along. He had not noticed it before.
He feels a small ache in his chest and guts, a warning or a dissolving of some kind.
Rose petals floating in his tea and it feels like they are in his stomach, swirling around with heavy barbells tied into knots and sinking into dark. Dark skin. Dark like this man's sister, the one Nanami-sama-
-His watch, it is missing, and his wrist looks small without it. Thin and weak even weaker when clasped by-
-dislikes, the girl with the dorky glasses and the rose petals all together floating…
You threatened another classmate earlier.
How did it feel?
I liked it. It felt good.
Were you angry?
Why? Did he say something?
He called me-
He is sitting in the man’s lap, his hips squirming. Heaviness. A monstrous sound, the thrumming and whirring of mechanisms coming from somewhere he cannot see. The sky upends itself above him, below him, revealing a endless landscape of night, of celestial bodies and intricate constellations dotting an endlessly deep and never ending blackness.
The world only seems so big, he thinks, because-
The stars are shining nice and bright for us, aren’t they?
They are very far away, I know. I learned that they shine millions and billions of years away from us, so by the time we see their light, it’s been traveling for millions and billions of years…
Correct. Those stars could all be dead, you know. One trillion stars dying and all so tiny…
It felt good when I yelled at him. When I imagined what I would do.
What you would do when you grow up?
When I’m an adult.
How long has it been, do you remember?
No, no he does not. He names his fear as soon as he feels it enter him; feet kicking and tangled in his little green shorts and red-lined underwear, the star behind him breathing and the ones above him far away and he wonders if when he is older he will see his self now dead like starlight. Cries a bit at the pain and the fear and the muscles against his back, because things only seem to be this big and this scary when you are young and immature screaming at another little boy in a matching uniform and letting your temper grow and lash outside of your body and your self because you imagine that you are the scary one, now.
But you are not.
You are just little boy throwing a tantrum and embarrassing himself in front of his beautiful teacher and her serious eyes and you cannot stop the man holding you from doing what he is doing no matter how badly it hurts and everything is spinning farther and farther away and he realizes the devastating truth; that patience alone cannot stop the stars from slipping away from him.
Akio kisses the back of his hand with full, satiated lips, climaxes with one final roll of his hips, the button of his pants digging into soft skin. The boy’s body slumps forward, unconscious, the drug, if there ever was one, alongside the exhaustion taking its inevitable toll.
The projector hums, low and hollow, and then shuts down, blinking out, cloaking the room and a small, red watch sitting on a tea tray ticking away six days, four hours and 3 minutes in darkness.